We sit in a circle on the floor in Lucy’s room with the lights low and our shadows making ominous silhouettes against the neon grape walls of her room. Marissa, Hannah and I watch as Lucy brings out her trinket box, a carved wooden box trimmed in gold and placed it in front of her. Outside the wind sighs and the branches of the tulip poplar sway and creak; rain leaks down the windows. I expect to see glowing red eyes peering in at us, but there is only darkness. A spring storm.
We’re supposed to be studying, but first thing on the agenda is Tarot cards and gossip.
Lucy lifts out a packet of tarot cards wrapped in black velvet and looks around. “Who wants to go first? I’ve gotten good at this. I practiced a lot.”
Lucy and her cards don’t scare me. She thinks she’s a seer, but for one with the gift of sight, she didn’t realize Brad was cheating on her, and she never can tell you anything useful like if you’ll pass your next chem test or get a date for the Sophomore dance.
“The cards don’t always talk,” she says.
Marissa believes everything Lucy tells her, even when none of it works out, and she contorts the truth to fit her reading. “Now, I understand,” she says. “I asked wrong. It wasn’t the cards.”
Hannah’s too timid to say anything. After a reading, we ask her, “Did your question get answered?” She always nods and smiles. It doesn’t matter what the cards said. But Hannah’s cards always say the same thing, “Work hard, and you’ll achieve your goals.” What a big psychic revelation that is.
With me, nothing ever comes out the way Lucy says it will, so I never pay much attention.
“I’ll go first,” I say tonight. “Maybe you’ll answer my deep, dark question, and my dreams will come true.”
Since I’ve been dreaming that someone really cute will ask me to the Sophomore Dance, that’s as likely as me growing six inches taller and sprouting long blonde hair. I get tired of just being the smart girl in the back of the room. Why couldn’t I have big blue eyes like Marissa or pouty lips like Lucy or Hannah’s long blond curls? I guess if you put us all together, we’d make the perfect girl: smart and sexy.
Lucy sets down my signifier, the card that represents me: the Page of Cups. It’s close enough. I have brown hair and hazel eyes. I don’t think of myself as particularly romantic and sensitive, but under the right circumstances, who knows?
I shuffle the cards, cut the deck, and she begins to lay them out. I hadn’t seen these cards before: the Tower of Destruction, the Three of Swords—it looks ominous, a heart with three swords piercing it—a bunch of other cards meaning sorrow and sadness, and finally a card with a fat man surrounded by cups that Lucy calls the wish card. The last card is the Sun. She looks at the cards for a long time.
“Wow, Katie, these are some weird cards,” she says at last. “I guess I’d say you’re in for some really rough times, where everything will seem to go wrong, but it will turn out okay in the end because the Sun’s really powerful. Plus you have the wish card, so you should make a wish. Quick do it. Make a wish.”
Shrugging like I don’t care, I close my eyes and make my wish but feel kind of awful. Stupid, I know. Lucy reads everyone else. Her cards are especially good tonight, and Marissa says, “Oh, Lucy, maybe Jimmy Knolls will ask you out.”
Lucy blushes. “I don’t think so, but I think he’s so hot.”
I don’t say anything. Jimmy Knolls is a junior, but he’s already captain of the basketball team and one of the best lacrosse players in the state. He’s also smart. He’s signed a letter of intent at Dartmouth, which means he’s already been accepted at there even though he’s only a junior, so next year all he has to do is keep up his grades and play the way he already does. Every girl at school has a crush on him, but he’s like a god so he can pick anyone he wants. It isn’t going to be one of us.
We all laugh about our readings, but I feel off. Usually, I like hanging at Lucy’s, but tonight I’m actually relieved when my dad picks me up at ten.
My mom is super cheerful when I get home.
“I got a call from school today,” she says. “You won the J. P. Vesper Trophy for winter swimming. That’s exciting, isn’t it?”
“I guess.” I’m surprised. I was sure Lucy would get the trophy. Her times were better than mine all year, though I did come in first in the four hundred freestyle at conference championships and at state finals.
“Coach Roebuck said you were consistent, gave one hundred ten percent, and were a real leader. I’m so proud of you, honey.”
Mom hugs me.
I should be enjoying the good news that I finally won something at school, but instead I feel spooked. Stupid. Maybe Lucy read the cards wrong. After all, I had the Sun. That’s a good card.
“Do you believe in Tarot cards?” I ask my mom.
“Tarot cards?” She smiles a little. “Oh, maybe some people have some insight, but mostly I think it’s coincidence. When I was your age I was mad for them. But nothing turned out the way it was supposed to. Why? Do you want a set?”
“Lucy has a set,” I say. “She gave me a weird reading.”
My mom shakes her head. “I wouldn’t worry too much about Lucy and her reading. You make your own future pretty much, don’t you think?”
“I guess,” I say, but secretly I wonder if you make your own future or do things just jump in your path and push you in different directions? Why is it that some people are just riding along in their cars when a tractor-trailer jackknifes and crushes them? Is it weird Karma, and if someone read it in her Tarot cards, could she change it?
I go to sleep wondering.
In the morning, I set off for school feeling better. The sun is shinning, and I wear my new skinny jeans and riding boots with a black sweater and blazer. Everything feels a size too big, and I know I must look good when Jimmy Knolls actually speaks to me. He congratulates me on winning the swimming trophy and walks down the hall with me to my first period AP chem class.
“Hey a bunch of us are going out for pizza after practice. You should come,” he says.
A squeaking noise comes out of my throat before I clear it. “I . . . I . . .don’t drive,” I say, clutching my books against my chest like some moron from a romance novel.
“I can drive you.”
“I’ll have to let you know.”
He grins. “Okay. Later.”
I figure since we both play lacrosse and have afternoon practice, he’s just being nice. Still, he’s mighty cute, and he doesn’t wear those stupid saggy ass jeans. I decide not to tell Lucy that the god spoke to me.
I sit in my usual seat when Hannah comes in, her eyes red.
“What’s wrong?” I say.
“Didn’t you hear?” She wipes her eyes fiercely. “That big tulip poplar outside Lucy’s house crashed through the roof last night!”
“Are you kidding?” I feel a little sick. “Is she okay?”
Hannah’s shaking her head. “That tree fell right on top of her. She was crushed.”
I slump back in my seat remembering our card reading session last night. It was just a stupid game. It didn’t mean anything. When I wished Lucy would get my bad luck, I didn’t really mean it. I didn’t. There isn’t any such thing as card readings and charms anyway. I tell myself that, but I kept hearing Lucy say, “Quick make a wish. Make a wish.”
I lay my head on my desk. I want to curl inside myself and hide.
I killed Lucy.